John Hollinger’s Draft Rater reveals a few surprises

As a former math guy myself, I have a lot of respect for the analytical side of sports and I think that stats can paint a pretty good picture of how a player is performing (or how he will perform). It is by no means the be-all and end-all of judging a player’s value or potential, but it can get you in the right ballpark. If there was one thing I learned while trudging through Calc III, Differential Equations and Advanced Statistics, it’s that numbers are powerful.

ESPN’s John Hollinger developed the Player Efficiency Rating (PER) which takes into account the player’s statistical performance as well as extraneous factors (like the tempo at which his team plays at) to produce a summary statistic of that player’s performance for any given season.

He has recently produced a formula for the draft which forecasts a player’s third-season PER based on his performance in college. He didn’t reveal the details of the formula, which is unfortunate because I’d like to take a more in depth look at it, but he used regression analysis the player’s statistics along with other factors, like height, age, schedule strength and team strength.

When applied to previous drafts, it would have identified late first and second round gems like Josh Howard, David Lee, Rajon Rondo and Carlos Boozer, as well as Udonis Haslem, who went undrafted. Like the real world, there are some clunkers in his system, but it produces a better draft board than the NBA teams themselves, so it’s worth taking note.

Anyway, some of the results were interesting.

1. Michael Beasley is far and away the best player in this draft. His projected third-year PER of 19.31 puts him in the same class as Shawn Marion and Josh Smith, and just below David West.

2. Derrick Rose isn’t even the top point guard in the draft. Due to a so-so start to his freshman year, Rose’s numbers are depressed. D.J. Augustin’s 14.88 third-year PER projects him to be better than the 2008 version of Mike Bibby, but not quite as good as Nate Robinson or Jordan Farmar. (Keep in mind that Hollinger is not advocating taking Augustin over Rose, that’s just how his numbers bear out.)

3. Kevin Love is the real deal. He has the second-highest projected PER in the draft (17.80) which puts him on par with players like Chris Kaman, David Lee and Andrew Bogut.

4. Anthony Randolph is waaaaaaaaaaaay overrated. His projected 9.85 PER reveals what we already knew – the kid is a REALLY risky pick. When Hollinger ran the numbers for Randolph with the small forwards (as some scouts see him at that position), his projected performance rose to 11.78. Better, but still not worthy of a first round pick.

Now it’s not wise to put too much weight on Hollinger’s numbers. Obviously, it’s crucial to have a scouting department pouring through tapes, and it’s prudent to both workout and interview potential draftees. But some of these numbers would give me pause. I was already pushing for the Bulls to draft Beasley, and Hollinger’s numbers are the proverbial icing on the cake. I think Minnesota should take Love, and these numbers support that theory. And I sure as hell hope my favorite team – the Milwaukee Bucks – steers clear of Anthony Randolph and instead drafts Joe Alexander, who projects to be the best wing player in the draft. Hollinger projects him to be as good as Marvin Williams in three years, and I’d take that at #8 in a New York second.

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